For Neil Steiner, a doctoral student in electrical engineering who has been studying at Virginia Tech for seven years, watching Tuesday’s convocation with thousands of other students and parents in the university’s sun-filled football stadium was the perfect salve for a very bad hurt.
The mood inside the usually jubilant stadium was stoic. The intermittent silences when the sound went out on the Jumbotron broadcasting the convocation taking place inside the basketball stadium were at times overwhelming.
But Steiner said seeing the community come together in a “reserved and restrained” way was comforting. It was a day when it was important just to be “with fellow Hokies,” he said.
Steiner said he believes that it may take time until the “Let’s go Hokies” cheers that filled the stadium at the end of the convocation will be totally heartfelt again, but he believes the Virginia Tech community will get there, someday.
“It’s a horrible thing, but it would take so much more than this to crush the student body and the university here,” said Steiner.
Timmy Mills, a 39-year-old technician who works at the school and grew up in the area, noted that the community already had mustered the strength to survive one tragedy in the past year – a fatal shooting in last August.
“It’s a testament to the strength of the place – and the place is the people,” said Mills. “The strength is in the folks here, the students, the staff, the neighbors, the community. At times like this, people seem to rise to the occasion.”
Jennifer Tyree, a junior psychology major, said she felt compelled to join the crowd at the football stadium to try “to find the good in it, the best that we can.”
Tyree said it will be a long time before the school and the community to get back to normal, but she is certain they will. “We’ll get back and we’ll have a new spirit,” she said.
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As officials, students and families struggle to come to terms with the tragedy at Virginia Tech, a team of MSNBC.com reporters and editors and NBC News producers and correspondents is on the scene.